Kenny Wheeler, Ennio Morricone and Wayne Shorter


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I think I'm doing the same as I was thirty years ago. I'm still trying to find soppy romantic melodies mixed with a bit of chaos. That's what I've always done, I think. It is not really a question of moving forward.
—Kenny Wheeler
This Month:

Although he was born in Canada, Kenny Wheeler has been in the UK for over fifty years now, so we feel like he is our own.

I initially asked Wheeler for this interview at a gig at The Vortex last summer, one of the infrequent - and special - appearances of his big band, which includes such long-standing Wheeler collaborators as Evan Parker, Norma Winstone, John Taylor and Stan Sulzmann. When I told Parker that I wanted to interview Wheeler, his comment was, "There's a story there to be told. Don't let it get away." This reflects Wheeler's own self-effacing character and the comparative scarcity of interviews with him. When I interviewed Wheeler at the end of October, I started by asking him about this:

All About Jazz: You don't seem to be interviewed much. You seem to be a reluctant interviewee.

Kenny Wheeler: Yes. It's true. I've done a few over the years, I guess. But I'm not crazy about doing them.

AAJ: Why is that?

KW: I don't know. I suppose it's the same feeling as hearing your own voice on a tape recorder. Most people don't like it. It's a similar kind of feeling I suppose.

AAJ: You don't like reading what you've said?

KW: Sometimes I don't when I read it afterwards. I don't like trying to dig into myself that way, I guess.

AAJ: Are you happy for the music to speak for itself?

KW: Whatever.

AAJ: The obvious place to begin seems to be with the new album on Psi. The most noticeable thing about it is how long it took to record. It was done over six or seven years.

KW: Evan came into contact with this studio at Gateway and was able to get the studio quite cheap at a certain time of year. He likes to make things happen, even if he has to do it himself. He knew the story of ECM; it's so hard to get a record for them. My average is one every three or four or five years. So he said would I like to do something at Gateway, not with anything in mind really. And it just grew from there. Towards the end of it all, since I'd done quite a few different things, he got the idea of doing duo, trio, quartet. That's the way Evan is. I guess he decided to put it out on his own label.

AAJ: When you started recording it, his own label didn't even exist.

KW: I don't know what idea we had in mind. We just did it, at Evan's prompting.

AAJ: Who selected the players? Were they your choice?

KW: I think we just agreed on them. Evan would suggest somebody and I don't ever remember him suggesting somebody that I didn't want. He seemed to know the people I would like to record with.

AAJ: So the choice was essentially his, with you approving it, rather than you having an ensemble in mind?

KW: I think that was it. I can't say for sure. It all started about six or seven years ago. But I do think that's the way it went, yes.

AAJ: How do you feel about the album? Presumably you're happy with the way it turned out?

KW: I daresay I am. It's again like the feeling I get when I have to do an interview. I never listen to my own records more than once or twice. Maybe seven or eight years later I'll pull it out again and listen. I don't even like to think about whether they are good or whether I like them. I'm just happy when other people seem to like them, you know. Evan seems quite proud of it, in a way, because it's his baby in a sense. A couple of times I said I'd like one track with him on it, but that will come later, he said. One day, maybe...

AAJ: It's under your name and they are your compositions but do you see it as more Evan's baby, in terms of the responsibility for it? You make it sound as if he was the driving force.

KW: He was the driving force in getting it all together and contacting the people. All I had to do was to come up with some music!

AAJ: Is that all! You say you don't listen back to your own albums. Why is that? Is it because you're always moving forward, looking to the future?

KW: I think I'm doing the same as I was thirty years ago. I'm still trying to find soppy romantic melodies mixed with a bit of chaos. That's what I've always done, I think. It is not really a question of moving forward. (I forget what the question was, now.) [AAJ: Why you don't listen to your own albums.] Well, I've said this before a few times. I'm not really crazy about my solos. Your solo is definitely down to you, and you only have a split second to decide what the next note is going to be. When you write a composition, a tune - whatever you like to call it - you can labour over it, change things, rub things out, until you like it. I do like a lot of my compositions, but in the end I don't feel like I really own them. If you like, I have been lucky to tap into some source and picked them up, and I got them before anyone else did. I think Hoagy Carmichael said that about "Stardust", he got it before anyone else got it. I have the same feeling about the tunes I write. I quite like them because I don't feel responsible. But the solo, nobody is to blame but yourself.

AAJ: Do you see yourself as a perfectionist, then? Is any recording going to be imperfect compared to some ideal way that you think it should be?

KW: I never think in those terms. Evan sent me some reviews the other day of Dream Sequence that he got off the Internet. There was a really glowingly good one but then there were three or four little ones that made me feel sick and negative and horrible. One guy mentioned that, "Wheeler sits in now and again at The Vortex and does one set. I hope Wheeler is not trying to protect his ECM base." As if I'm hiding away in London and only doing it now and again in a small situation. That made me feel really sick, that anyone could sit there and watch a set and then print that on the Internet after. There was a couple of other...(I forgot the question again.) [AAJ: Whether you always feel a recording is imperfect.] One of the little things was that one guy thought that the record was too perfect. "Wheeler's pitch was spot on." But he was looking for a bit of grit or dirt in there. I don't think about whether I'm playing in tune or playing correctly. I just don't have those thoughts. What does perfect mean? I suppose I don't really have those thoughts at all. Trying to make a perfect record in my own mind, whatever my own feeling of a perfect record is - I don't even know what that is.

AAJ: I suppose the distinction is that a solo is in the moment and then it's gone; it is what it is. Whereas a composition you can hone it, polish it. Is that the distinction between not particularly liking your own solos and liking your compositions, that you get a chance to work at the compositions?

KW: I suppose you could work at a solo. Especially in the old days in big bands when you got two solos a night. Sometimes I used to think I'd plan the first eight bars of my solo but it always went wrong. I'd get into bar two and it would be all.... I could never plan out a solo. It has to be immediate, you know. You could have a little phrase that maybe you could start with. Like the only solo of mine I really like is that one on Around 6 , called "Solo One". It is only about three or four minutes. That's completely solo, because Manfred Eicher suggested I play a completely solo track. I thought, "What the hell will I do?" Anyway, I did have this little phrase I'd been fiddling around with, not with any motive in mind, and so I started the solo and built it around that little phrase, and it kind of worked OK. I do like that one three or four minute solo. But I could never really plan a solo in any way.

AAJ: How much of the fact that you like it is because it was solo, you were on your own, self-contained?

KW: I would have liked it anyway, whether I'd been with bass and drums. I'm just happy it came off, a little phrase I'd been playing with, I transposed into different registers and fiddled with it. I was just happy with the way it came off. In a sense, it was again, I suppose, the idea of when you perfect a written piece, that I was perfecting it - no, not perfecting it but planning it - in the sense that I had this little phrase and took it to different registers. It was comparable to the writing activity.

AAJ: More like a spontaneous composition. One thing that has been commented on in your music is a timeless quality. It is interesting that the album took seven years to do, but there is no sense of the old stuff sounding seven years older compared to the later stuff. Is that something you recognise in your music, something you aim for?

KW: I don't really aim for it, but I like the fact that that is happening. It seems to happen to other people. I suppose you could say that although I started listening to really early jazz, like Louis Armstrong, when I was a kid, it was when I was fifteen that I met the first group of friends I ever had who turned me on to bebop. So I really consider bebop as my real roots, I suppose. When I got to like that, I really loved Dizzy, Bud, Fats Navarro, and all those people. I suppose I must have spent the next fifteen or twenty years trying to play in that sense, not exactly like them, but my idea of that music. I never felt comfortable with what I was doing until I met the group of young guys here, Evan Parker, John Stevens, all them. They kind of welcomed me. They didn't say, "You're welcome" but they admitted me into their circle. Through meeting them, I got more comfortable with whatever I was trying to do, whatever that was. Then I began to hear some players who were not what I'd call straight bebop - like Booker Little is an example I've used a lot. I felt more comfortable with myself, around the early to middle 70s, because I still hope that what I do is jazz but I also hope I don't have a lot of hot licks. If I were to play with a rhythm section that was playing straight ahead bebop, I would feel very uncomfortable. I like to play in a loose situation, you know. I try to throw in a little bebop but I try not to throw in bebop licks. Try. As I said, you only have a split second to decide what you're going to do next. There are players who are great jazz players but don't necessarily play in the mode of other people. I like those players who look like they are searching for a tune or a melody in their solos. Jim Hall. I would even put Sonny Rollins in that. Chris Potter - they say it's bebop he plays, and I suppose it is, but the way he puts phrases together is fantastic. A lot of younger players coming up - Mark Turner - are in that category. Although a lot of younger players you can definitely say are New York bop, New York post-bop or whatever. But there seems to be a feeling amongst the Brad Mehldaus and all them of doing something different.

AAJ: ...with more of an emphasis on melody than bebop had. To recap part of what you said there, prior to meeting Evan and John Stevens and the S.M.E. people, you're saying that you didn't feel particularly comfortable. You were quite prominent during that period, playing with Ronnie Scott and people like that. Are you saying you weren't particularly comfortable with what you were doing in that period?

KW: No. I don't think I was. I can't remember the actual chronology of it, of when I played with Ronnie. I got by in Ronnie's band, but I felt that I should have been a complete bopper playing like people like Tubby Hayes who were phenomenal in that language. I felt I shouldn't have been there, in that situation, that they shouldn't have asked me to be there. A few years later, I did feel a bit better about it all, I think.

AAJ: What were the actual mechanics of your getting involved with S.M.E. and John Stevens and so on? Did you just happen to bump into those people?

KW: I guess I was a bit depressed in those days. I had a burning desire to play jazz but I didn't get too many gigs because I couldn't play straight ahead, on-the-beat bebop. I just happened to hear about the Little Theatre Club where these young guys were playing - I guess at the time they called it avant-garde - now they call it free improvisation. So I went up one night to listen to them. I must admit that on first hearing I didn't like what they were doing. It could have been Paul Rutherford with Evan and maybe Trevor Watts. I can't remember exactly who it was on the first night. But I did go back a couple of nights after that. Eventually they said," Would you like to sit in?" so I did. To this day, with that kind of free improvisation, I don't know whether what I do is any good, but I do find it therapeutic to do it with the right people. You get something out of your system, I think. So that's how it happened. Then I started to play more with them. And there was a bit of a communal scene around Europe, Germany mostly, and they started to ask me a bit into the German scene, Schlippenbach and all those people. (I should have written it all down years ago. I can't remember. Time has taken it.) I also got a bit more into the conventional thing, I think. I can't remember exactly where I did it, but I played with the Francy Boland Big Band as a dep when one of the others couldn't do it. I played the Jazz Workshop in Hamburg. I went over and did that, not under my own name but with other people like Ronnie Ross, Bill LeSage, people like that. So at that more conventional level I was starting to get more into Europe. Also, I don't remember exactly when Braxton came. I think he came to London once and - I don't know who told him about me - he wanted to rehearse some of his music. And I think he just liked the attempt that I made to play his almost impossible stuff. So I had a bit of contact with him. He lived in Paris for a few years and I started to play with him. In about 1976, he asked me to move over to the States a few times, but for me it was just too big a move for me to make. Doreen's roots are here. I'd already broken mine long ago, so I could have gone anywhere, but I couldn't have subjected her to that. Then someone, probably Evan, told Manfred Eicher about me. At that time, he was recording more improvised stuff such as Derek Bailey. I guess as a result of that, he finally gave me the record with Keith Jarrett, which I'd already booked John Taylor for, but Manfred said it would be better for all of us if I hired Keith. It was my first really big chance. I had to ring John up and give him the bad news. I think he went down to Munich to see them [ECM] and eventually got a thing of his own.

AAJ: That was the start of your long-standing relationship with ECM. But you were saying earlier, you only have a record out every four or five years on ECM...

KW: It has got a bit like that. The last one I did was A Long Time Ago. The last one that I did before that was Angel Song. I'm not sure what year that was; it was quite a while ago. I guess you can get a record if you bombard them with phone calls, but three [replies of] "Out to Lunch" or "He's in a meeting", and I give up. Enrico Rava is a really good jazz player but he is another super bop player. It seems like he [Manfred Eicher] is moving from Norway to Italy. I hear he is recording other Italian people. But I just don't have the perseverance or patience to try and get another record. I was a bit bitter and angry about it for a while but I have just got used to the idea that it probably won't happen again. I think if there was something I really wanted... I did have this idea for something. There is a guy who kind of manages me a bit now, an Italian guy. He got in touch with them about a project, but he got no reply. So I said to leave it. That is what happens. I don't want to go begging for anything, you know.

AAJ: I would think in most people's minds, you would be one of ECM's core of artists even though your releases are a bit infrequent.

KW: Over the years, I've been on lots of other people's records, but I think I've done eight of my own under my own name, which is quite a lot since 1975, nearly thirty years. I've probably done ten or fifteen of other people's records...ECM is a good label. It gets all over the world whereas Dream Sequence is probably quite hard to get in other countries, I would think.

AAJ: In the context of talking about ECM, I have to ask, as an aside, about your album titles. You're very fond of word games, aren't you, puns and so forth. Lots of your album titles. [ Gnu High, Deer Wan, The Widow in the Window... ] Where does that come from?

KW:I don't like serious titles and serious names. That's why I called that Gnu High. If it was an American label, it would probably come out as A New High in Music. You know that kind of bold statement of titles. I don't like them much so I put a little twist in it.

AAJ: Quite a lot of your titles have those little twists in.

KW: Yes. I do like to do that. Evan and a few people I know are fantastic crossword [fans]. They do The Times or whatever. I could never do that. I do like playing around with words a little bit.... I wouldn't like to make a declamatory statement about a record. "This is something you should hear!" I don't like that sort of a statement. I try to get a bit of humour into it somehow. The only trouble is that sometimes I think of a title first and I don't want to get to the stage where I've got a title and then I have to write a song for it.

AAJ: We mentioned briefly the timeless quality of your music. Is it right that some of the big band arrangements used at The Vortex were 60s arrangements?

KW: Yes. The original band was...I forget the year; it must have been an Arts Council tour I did in the 70s... with that particular line-up. Evan was in it, Derek Bailey, John Taylor - no, it wasn't John, it was Pat Smythe and ... oh I can't remember the other pianist. Norma [Winstone] was in it. That music had hardly been played for years and years. So, a couple of years ago, I got it out and wrote a couple of new bits. A lot of the stuff is on the record Song for Someone , [originally released on Incus in 1975] which I think Evan is going to try and get out again. It is from about that period. That is what a lot of the music at The Vortex was. Most of it came from that period. Hugh Warren took the part of the second piano. I was happy with his contribution. I like that slightly French accordion sound that he gets in there.

AAJ: When you are arranging, do you hear the whole thing, fully formed? How does it work for you when you are arranging stuff like that? Do you hear all the sounds in your head?

KW: It's hard to say what you hear in your head. Sometimes most of us jazz players walk around singing solos in our heads. In the end, you think, "Is that complete rubbish that I'm thinking?" The hard part for me is writing an original - I don't like to say original - a melody that I like myself. Then I would probably arrange it to play with maybe a quartet or quintet. Then if that works well, then eventually I might try to do a big band. But doing a big band arrangement, although it is physically harder work, a lot more writing, mentally I think I find it easier than what I go through trying to find the original melody. Sometimes I think I have got into a bit of a rut with the big band because I have been doing thing for so many years. It gets heard so little that I suppose it doesn't matter. I like the same full sound of the band. I don't use woodwinds, like flutes or clarinets or anything like that. I don't like mutes in the brass. I like the impact of its full sound, which if heard too much could get samey. But as it is only heard once a year at the most, then it is probably not too much, I would think.

AAJ: When you are arranging, are you arranging for the particular solo players that you have in mind, or do you think that this would be great for a certain player?

Most of the time, I do think so-and-so would be good for this solo. I remember when I was writing the music for Small and Large Ensembles [ECM], a long time ago, 1990 or something, I wrote a solo that I thought would be Ray Warleigh. But after a while he said, "I can't play this solo. Give it to Duncan Lamont." Then he wanted to come over and see me. I can play the piano a bit. I'm not fabulous. I can get around. I played the chords for him. The harmony was bothering him. He couldn't make head or tail of it. But after about two hours, he started to get the hang of it. And I think he played a really good solo. I guess you can come unstuck sometimes like that. This is a very quiet period for me, until the end of the year. Next year is starting already to look a bit busy. The year from next January is the big 75th, so Christine, Allen, Evan and a couple of other people are trying to plan a tour or a big concert for that. While I've got the time, I'm already trying to write some stuff for that. So I thought the first half could be a selection of small groups and the big band in the second half. I'm trying to do some new music for the big band for that. Again, I fall into the same problem. I might write a melody or an introduction then have what I call an ensemble chorus, the whole band playing together, then I think it's time for a solo from somebody but.... I think over the years I've used this so much but it's heard so little it maybe doesn't matter. I know Bob Brookmeyer - who has been one of the tremendous writers - he now writes with hardly any solos. But it is still jazz. I don't think I could ever get to that stage. I like to think that what I do is 50% written and 50% improvised solos. I couldn't envisage it without solos. What to do after the melody and the ensemble chorus, I can't find. It seems logical to me to do a solo.

AAJ: You mention Bob Brookmeyer. Are there any big band arrangers who you admire?

KW: My tastes always went towards the slightly more orchestral people. I always loved - naturally - Basie, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich and all that. But I also liked Duke Ellington, and even - the one you're not supposed to like - Stan Kenton. I like that big vast orchestral sound that he had. There is that famous joke attributed to Al Porcino. There was a band meeting, and Stan Kenton was talking, "We need to find something different for this band. Has anyone got any suggestions?" and Porcino said, "We could trying swinging for a change." [Laughs] That was the comment about that band, that it was too orchestral. But I did like it. When I lived in Canada, all of the big bands used to come to an arena in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I got to hear them all, and that was the one I really looked forward to. Also Claude Thornhill, the sound of that band was great.

AAJ: Gil Evans arranged for them.

KW: Of course, I always liked what he did. Today, there seem to be a lot of good young writers. I like Mike Gibbs. He has the kind of orchestral sound too. And he is writing more standards now, I hear. I haven't heard too much of that. I liked his orchestral rock thing that he used. It was nice. And Stan Sulzman is writing really good things, these days. John Taylor, when he occasionally writes big band stuff, I like that very much. Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely - there are lots of good big band people around New York. There are a few more in England, but I can't think of them right now.

AAJ: Earlier, you used a phrase "a cute tune with a bit of chaos in it".

KW: When I'm doing an arrangement, I like to put a period of...What I always like to do is have little interludes between the pieces and give the interludes to different people and just see what happens. But in the middle of a tune I can't do that. I've not learnt how to do that yet. Sometimes I try to break away from my melancholic melodies. When you get into the classical world, there are so many musicians, so much great music of all ages that I feel I better step back into my own little jazz world and stay in there.

AAJ: You're not knowingly going for melancholy melodies? It's how they end up?

KW: I suppose I'm twisted because sad music makes me feel happy. My favourite people in jazz are the ones who sound a bit sad. Billie Holliday. Miles Davis, that's a sad sound.

AAJ: Billy Strayhorn on the new album?

KW: Yes, that's right. And in classical music, there's Debussy and all those people. I like going a long way back into classical music, into the baroque thing. I like that music a lot because it doesn't make me feel happy or sad. A lot of it is just lively. Like Bach for instance, although I don't know if he is classed as baroque. And there was a lady in 1100 and something, Hildegard von Bingen. I hear some of the pop people like her, so I'll have to disown her now, I think. But that music does make me feel quite good to hear it. Not joyful or sad. So I do listen to that. And another guy - what's his name? Gesualdo - who, I think, murdered his wife's lover when he found him in bed with his wife. I like his music a lot. Definitely baroque. And Thomas Tallis. I listen to that probably more than I do to anything after that.

AAJ: Do you feel that quite a lot of your melodies are inspired by that? Are those the seeds that are being sown?

KW: I get a routine going when I start the day with the idea of writing. I'm not a great pianist but I'd probably play through some Bach chorales. Simple four-part harmony. It shows you how harmony should work. Then I might make a short attempt at playing something a bit more modern like Hindemith or Ravel, which I can't play; it sounds horrible. Then I might start to try and write a tune after that. It's as if it somehow sets you up a bit. I don't know, maybe I've been thinking wrong all these years but that is the idea I've had for many years.

AAJ: You said it's a quiet period. What groups or ensembles do you consider yourself actively involved in still? You have been involved in so many. Which are still ongoing?

KW: I don't think there are any, really. I have this Italian manager and he gets me work, but nobody ever says, "I want you to bring your quartet." I could I suppose get a pub in England, but I couldn't ask people to do it for thirty or forty quid a night and have a rehearsal. Over the year, I suppose I've done maybe three or four concerts with John Taylor. I love that situation because he is fantastic to play with, very inspiring. I don't have any more. I did have a quartet with John Taylor, Chris Laurence and Adam Nussbaum but that seems to have fizzled out somehow. We had a record lined up for ECM about three years ago but they cancelled it about two weeks before, so that kind of petered out. I've suggested a tour next year with a quartet with John Taylor, Chris Laurence and Stan Sulzman, a drummerless quartet. It's a bit of a vogue these days, people going for drummerless groups. I'm sure it won't last too long. There is nothing else I can think of..

AAJ: Was the trio with Stan Sulzman and John Parricelli...

KW: Oh yes. If I do anything regular, it's that. We do an average of one gig a month. I enjoy doing that very much.

AAJ: That was a spin-off from the Dream Sequence album, wasn't it?

KW: I suppose it was. I don't remember whose idea that trio was. It was either John's or Stan's or even Evan's. I'm not sure. It wasn't mine, but I do enjoy playing with that trio very much. John Parricelli is a wonderful player. He is so good at everything he does. I don't know how he can do everything that he does. I see him on television, in a big band. It doesn't bother him. He thinks of everything as a challenge and likes to do his best. He's a wonderful player. Stan, of course, all you can say is he's one of England's unsung heroes. Lots of people get more recognition than he does. But he deserves to be an international player, I think. It's hard to become one of those. I only became one through getting into Europe via the free improvisation.

AAJ: And also presumably through working with Dave Holland?

KW: Of course. That was a great period when I was with Braxton's quartet with him and Barry Altschul. I love that band. I was sorry it kind of petered out in a way. First of all, I think Dave Holland and Barry Altschul weren't connecting musically. I think Anthony started looking around for another drummer. Eventually, for some reason or another - he kept asking me to go over, and I wasn't always available - he got George Lewis in. I thought nobody else could ever play those parts but George Lewis played them on a trombone. So that kind of petered out, but I liked that quartet very much. I thought all the time that I was somehow learning about music in that group. Both Dave and John Taylor, anything important I've ever been involved in, one of them has been involved in it. That was why I had an idea that one day I'd like to do a record with just the trio. I think that is what my Italian manager suggested to ECM. But, so far, no reply.

AAJ: Do you think you'll have other albums out on Psi, Evan's label?

KW: People like Dave Holland and John Taylor, the fee is quite high. Not that I wouldn't care to do it. At my stage of life, instead of just recording, I might as well go for the big boys. I'd love to have both of them. They're two of my favourite players. And whatever Evan wanted me to do, I would do it. If he suggested doing something with people who are not so well known, I would willingly do it, if he wanted me to.

AAJ: When the Dave Holland big band album came out, I was surprised that you weren't on that, because you'd been involved in the octet.

KW: He did ask me once, when he got the first gig at the Montreal Jazz Festival about three years ago. I couldn't do it. I was doing something else. I don't blame him. The three trumpets he got, he was happy with. Also, people like to rehearse in New York, and I'm over here. I don't think bad of him for not having me. His big band record is a great record.

AAJ: It seems like the start of something he'll develop.

KW: I think he'll work up to a complete big band.

A full discography of Wheeler's releases is hard to find. Here is a discography of his ECM releases: http://www.ecmrecords.com .

Happy Birthday, Ennio!

November 10th was Ennio Morricone's seventy-fifth birthday, and Londoners were privileged to be able to spend the evening in the company of the great man - at the Royal Albert Hall, together with the Rome Symphony Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus. The evening's programme presented the original orchestrations of some of Morricone's most famous film soundtracks, including those for The Mission, Battle of Algiers, Cinema Paradiso, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables and, of course, the classic Sergio Leone westerns. As a celebration of Morricone, it could only scratch the surface of his work - he could play the Royal Albert Hall for months and not exhaust his work - but it was a joyous, overwhelming feast of film music.

Anyone wishing to recreate the experience of that evening (whether or not they were there) is recommended to the DVD Ennio Morricone - Arena Concerto on Warner Music Vision, a live-in-concert record of Morricone's world tour of 2002-3, filmed in the spectacular arena in Verona. The DVD captures the majesty of Morricone's music, and has excellent sound, even if the visuals are too reminiscent of a pop video at times.

Wayne Shorter and more...

The most common reaction to this year's London Jazz Festival was to be underwhelmed. There were few gigs that set the paces racing or the juices flowing. Overall, it felt rather too safe , opting for crowd pleasers such as Bobby McFerrin, wunderkind Jamie Cullum and Diane Reeves. Notable exceptions were Ken Vandermark and Tim Berne, both as unpredictable and edgy as ever, and the Esbjorn Svenson Trio (EST).

EST return to the UK for a short tour in late January and early February. Sadly, the tour will bypass London. By way of compensation, London can look forward to a four-night residency of Wayne Shorter's music at the Barbican and nearby St. Luke's, from January 26th to 29th. Shorter will perform with his "Footprints" quartet on 26th, with Martial Solal and Tomorrow's Warriors at St. Luke's on 27th. The same venue on 28th features Shorter Stories with Danilo Perez playing a solo set. Finally, at The Barbican on 29th, the quartet are joined by the BBC Concert Orchestra. Now, that gets the juices flowing...

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Read 2021: The Year in Jazz
Year in Review
2021: The Year in Jazz
Read Ian Patterson's Best Albums Of 2021

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